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The Revenge of Shinobi Slices up the Competition – Today in Retro Gaming – December 2, 1989

Sega’s original Shinobi first appeared in the Arcades back in 1987. With its well designed multidirectional side-scrolling levels, varied enemy characters, end of level guardians, Ninjitsu special magic move, and general smooth gameplay, the game became a huge hit. The game was soon ported over to many home platforms, including Sega’s own Master System console, but did not make it over to the Sega Genesis. The reason for this was that Sega were already working on a Sega Genesis game that would serve as a follow up to the arcade hit: The Revenge of Shinobi.

Set three years after the events of the arcade game, Zeed and his terrorist gang have returned more powerful than ever. Now commanding a powerful army of ninjas, soldiers, and assassins, Neo Zeed has killed Musashi’s sensei and kidnapped his bride, Naoko. Musashi makes it his mission to infiltrate Zeed’s many hideouts across the world, including Toyko, Detroit, New York, and a Chinatown, in an effort to rescue Naoko.

The game’s multidirectional side-scrolling design will be familiar territory to Shinobi fans, but here, the levels are more involving and indepth. While Musashi has his old ninja moves and weapons available to defeat the enemy, he has also brought a few new moves with him: the spectacular somersault shuriken move can be deadly to any nearby enemy, while there are now four new kinds of Ninjitsu magic. Another addition is the introduction of the much more forgiving energy bar; no more one hit equals death that its arcade parent dished out.

However, what is amazing about The Revenge of Shinobi is how well everything in the game comes together. The graphics are fantastic with impressive sprites and some neat scrolling parallax backdrops. On top of that is the incredible soundtrack that varies through the many levels, all the while accompanied by effective sound effects. As for the gameplay, The Revenge of Shinobi doesn’t disappoint here. Despite being one of the earliest Genesis releases, it still holds up against later games and should surely be classed as one of the best 16-bit Sega games of all time.

An interesting side note is that the game went through numerous revisions due to copyright issues with some of the enemy characters. The original revision, released in Japan only, featured characters with a passing resemblance to many cultural influences, including Rambo, Terminator, Spider-Man, Batman, and Godzilla. A second revision, which was also used as the first international release, replaced the Batman and Rambo characters with a Devilman and generic soldier character respectively. A third revision in 1990 redesigned the Spider-Man sprite to be more realistic following a license agreement with Marvel. A fourth revision replaced Godzilla with a skeleton dinosaur. Then, almost twenty years later, revisions for the Xbox Live Arcade (2009) and PlaySation Network (2012) included another redesign of Spider-Man, due to the Marvel license having expired.

Various sequels, follow ups, and side games were released over the years, but most of them did not have the same impact that The Revenge of Shinobi had on the Genesis. The Revenge of Shinobi itself has since appeared on many different platforms and compilations: Sega Classics Arcade Collection for the Sega CD, Sega Smash Pack for the PC, Sega Smash Pack for the Sega Dreamcast, Wii Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Windows Steam. That’s an impressive list of releases across many different platforms and leaves retro gamers with no excuses not to play this classic.

Neil Reive

An avid retrogamer who has worked on various projects, magazines, and fanzines. He started his videogaming journey with the Amstrad CPC464 computer before moving onto a Commodore 64, then the Sega Mega Drive, followed by a multitude of PCs.

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